Cinema Scope Online

Watching the Watchers: Joële Walinga’s Self-Portrait

By Emerson Goo Last year, competitive players of GeoGuessr—a web game that involves guessing random Google Street View locations—went viral thanks to their formidable feats of identification. The best players can quickly guess within miles of the actual location, relying on roadside markers and other pieces of transport infrastructure, as well as topographic and climatic…
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The Fabelmans (Steven Spielberg, U.S., Universal)

The Fabelmans (Steven Spielberg, US)

The city of Phoenix has a legacy of unfulfilled aspirations and things that never quite were. From the legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, to the Suns’ countless playoff eliminations, or even Barry Goldwater and John McCain’s respective failed runs for the presidency, the Arizona capital is emblematic of always being—and staying— just on the cusp of greatness. Despite being the fifth largest city in the US, it’s an amorphous locale within the iconography of the nation’s metropolises. It’s seen as a place in the sun where Canadian snowbirds go to thaw out, where Californians come to retire, and the last major stop before the long stretch of Sonoran Desert in all directions. 
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TIFF 2022 | Sparta (Ulrich Seidl, Austria/France/Germany) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Mike Thomas  At time of writing, it’s not clear whether Ulrich Seidl’s Sparta will have its planned world premiere at TIFF, with rumours circulating that the film will be pulled from the programme because of a damning exposé, published in the German weekly Der Spiegel, that accuses the Austrian provocateur of exploiting and psychologically…
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TIFF 2022 | All Too Well: The Short Film (Taylor Swift, US) — In Conversation With…)

By Michael Sicinski I am not a fan of Taylor Swift, or of Adam Curtis, really, although I think both of them get off a good line now and then. But I do think that Swift would be an excellent topic for a Curtis (or Curtis-style) investigation. That’s because Swift is the most successful example…
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TIFF 2022 | Women Talking (Sarah Polley, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Winnie Wang The nocturnal attacks against the Mennonite girls and women, it turns out, weren’t ghosts or retributions for their sins, but a recurring collective nightmare in the form of repeated sexual assaults carried out by men armed with animal tranquillizers. After one assailant is identified and threatened with a scythe, the men of…
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TIFF 2022 | Nightalk (Donald Shebib, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman A baffling yet not altogether unenjoyable exercise in late style, Nightalk finds the now-84-year-old Don Shebib working—incongruously to say the least—in Brian De Palma mode. An early dream sequence set on a hurtling TTC subway car and featuring a lurking, faceless assailant evokes the ambient psychosexual menace of Dressed to Kill (1980);…
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TIFF 2022 | The Menu (Mark Mylod, US) — Special Presentation

By Madeleine Wall For Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), the mastermind behind Hawthorne, a prestigious farm to table restaurant located on an isolated island, revenge is a dish best served in multiple courses. He’s invited a select dozen to his restaurant, known for its inventive approach to food, molecular gastronomy at its finest, for a perfectly…
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TIFF 2022 | Hawa (Maïmouna Doucouré, France) — Platform

By Saffron Maeve Given the absurd, moralistic onslaught which obscured Maïmouna Doucouré’s 2020 debut Cuties, one might wonder how a first-time filmmaker bounces back from such controversy, or from a letter addressed to the DOJ by champion of the cinematic cause Ted Cruz. Gracefully, it seems, as Doucouré’s sophomore effort Hawa is a trim, affecting…
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TIFF 2022 | The People’s Joker (Vera Drew, US) — Midnight Madness

By Will Sloan Because entertainment monopolies have plastered every visible surface of our cultural landscape with superheroes, a widespread perception has taken root that these characters constitute “our modern myths.” The companies themselves have helped foster this idea with such postmodern movies as The LEGO Movie (2014) and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), which state…
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TIFF 2022 | Sanctuary (Zachary Wigon, US)  —  Special Presentations

By Josh Lewis Fantasy and class are the name of the game in Zachary Wigon’s claustrophobic chamber thriller Sanctuary. Similarly to his debut 2014 feature The Heart Machine—which took a bleak look at the impulse to be romantically dishonest about your online vs. physical self—Sanctuary centers itself around a crumbling hermetic relationship afraid to move…
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TIFF 2022 | All Quiet on the Western Front (Edward Berger, Germany) — Special Presentations

By Josh Lewis “This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure” is how German writer Erich Maria Remarque opened All Quiet on the Western Front, his fictional recounting of the torturously bleak experience of serving in the trenches of WWI at the age of 18. The…
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TIFF 2022 | Empire of Light (Sam Mendes, UK/US) — Special Presentations

By Meg Shields They said it couldn’t be done. But someone has finally made a boring movie about Olivia Colman being horny. Directed by Sam Mendes, shot by Roger Deakins, and scored by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Empire of Light is a technically proficient but hopelessly superficial tale that follows Hilary (Colman), a listless…
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TIFF 2022 | Pearl (Ti West, US) — Midnight Madness

By Saffron Maeve  Much like the maggot-licked suckling pig shrivelling on the front porch in Ti West’s prequel to this year’s porno-slasher X, Pearl is an increasingly meatless and eye-grabbing article, comprising the kind of prepensed exposition that could only follow a desperately self-ciphering film. Set 61 years prior to the events of X, backdropped…
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TIFF 2022 | Sick (John Hyams, US) — Midnight Madness

By Josh Lewis A COVID lockdown protocol slasher might sound like a tough sell to a moviegoing public not particularly enthusiastic about going back to the days of toilet paper shortages even in our entertainment. Still, in the hands of legendary teen meta-horror scribe Kevin Williamson and underrated direct-to-video action director John Hyams, Sick is…
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TIFF 2022 | The Colour of Ink (Brian D. Johnson, Canada) — TIFF Docs

By Winnie Wang Brian D. Johnson’s second feature documentary is abundant with close-up shots of ink blooming into pools of colour. The pigment diffuses onto paper, branching into dendritic configurations that bear resemblance to fluvial processes. Water carries sediment from one place to another, depositing material to compose new arrangements. The Colour of Ink could…
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TIFF 2022 | Tora’s Husband (Rima Das, India) — Platform

By Michael Sicinski Set in Das’s hometown of Assam, Tora’s Husband is centred on Jaan (Abhijit Das), a restaurateur who has struggled to make ends meet during the government-mandated COVID lockdown. But as the film continually emphasizes, Jaan did everything he was supposed to do. He paid his staff their regular wages while the restaurant…
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TIFF 2022 | Biosphere (Mel Eslyn, US) — Special Presentations

By Ally Oman The greatest disservice that could be done to Biosphere would be to sell it on the grounds of the strange direction its plot takes. Set in a near future in which the only two survivors of a global catastrophe are best friends Ray (Sterling K. Brown) and Billy (Mark Duplass), the film…
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TIFF 2022 | The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh, Ireland) — Special Presentations

By Clara Miranda Scherffig The Banshees of Inisherin is a pessimistic fable told in the way of a black comedy-drama. In the style of Martin McDonagh’s previous efforts, the film exists as a self-contained, odd universe that aptly plays out on an island, the fictional Inisherin on the West coast of Ireland. It’s 1923 and…
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TIFF 2022 | Maya and the Wave (Stephanie Johnes, US) — TIFF Docs

By Madeleine Wall Nazare, Portugal boasts of having the largest waves in the world. Averaging around 50 feet in height, they often end up going up to 80, with 100 as the highest ever recorded. Crowds gather along the shoreline to see these massive behemoths rise and fall, and often catch sight of small figures,…
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TIFF 2022 | Bros (Nicholas Stoller, US) — Special Presentations

By Meg Shields Despite being billed as a satire, Bros is, formally speaking, a familiar bedfellow within the rom-com space. Nicholas Stoller’s crowdpleaser slots in nicely alongside a long lineage of anti-romantic comedies so named for their fiercely independent protagonists who find their way from cynicism to sentimentality in the presence of The One Person…
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TIFF 2022 | The Young Arsonists (Sheila Pye, Canada) — Discovery

By Madeleine Wall It’s not always a bad thing if a house is haunted. Over a long hot summer in the late ‘80s in non-specified rural Canada, Nicole (Maddy Martin) and Veronica (Jenna Warren) take over the abandoned house that used to belong to Nicole’s family. Both are keen to get away from their own…
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TIFF 2022 | Until Branches Bend (Sophie Jarvis, Canada) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman A lot of peaches were harmed in the making of Sophie Jarvis’ Until Branches Bend, in which an Okanagan Eden gets infested from the inside-out. After discovering a mysterious bug inside some recently picked fruit, Robin (Grace Glowicki) raises the alarm with her boss and finds herself ostracized by a community whose…
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TIFF 2022 | Joyland (Saim Sadiq, Pakistan) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski Saim Sadiq’s feature debut certainly has a lot on its mind, most of it centred on the problem of masculine stereotypes, and the tendency in traditionally masculinist cultures to equate machismo and authoritarianism with being a real man. Sadiq studied film at Columbia, and this no doubt offered him the chance to…
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TIFF 2022 | The Swearing Jar (Lindsay MacKay, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Sofia Majstorovic “I’m gonna tell you this and then I’m gonna go,” says Carey (Adelaide Clemens), the reluctantly wistful protagonist of The Swearing Jar, Lindsay MacKay’s banter-laden follow-up to Wet Bum (2014). Carey’s ding-dong-ditch attitude towards her romantic partners manifests throughout MacKay’s sophomore effort via Adam Sandler-esque acoustic sets whose consistency counterbalances the film’s…
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TIFF 2022 | Self-Portrait as a Coffee Pot (William Kentridge, South Africa/US) — TIFF Docs

By Michael Sicinski Is it possible that some folks were too productive during COVID? It has become a common joke that almost nobody took advantage of the quarantine to write that novel or master a new language. But William Kentridge spent that time making a nine-part documentary about himself and his work. Based on the…
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TIFF 2022 | Runner (Marian Mathias, US) — Discovery

By Winnie Wang Amidst stark plains and interiors in rural Missouri, 18-year-old Haas (Hannah Schiller) is faced with an uncertain future after the sudden death of her father Al, an outcast burdened with debt and dubious plans to flip properties along the Mississippi River. Alone with a house pending foreclosure, her most pressing concern is…
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TIFF 2022 | Charcoal (Carolina Markowicz, Brazil/Argentina) — Platform

By Angelo Muredda A corrupt deal with a mysterious nurse who brings death rather than life unravels a tightly wound family in Carolina Markowicz’s ambitious and sometimes inscrutable first feature, Charcoal, which is pitched somewhere between a fable, a comedy of errors, and a satire of Brazilian family values and faith as a refuge from…
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TIFF 2022 | A Gaza Weekend (Basil Khalil, Palestine/UK) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman “The virus can’t tell the difference between Jews and Arabs,” exclaims a character early on in A Gaza Weekend, giving British-Palestinian director Basil Khalil’s wearyingly zany plague comedy a low-calorie humanistic thesis statement. The idea that the Gaza would, by nature of its enclosure, represent a safe harbour in the midst of…
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TIFF 2022 | The Fabelmans (Steven Spielberg, US) — Special Presentations

By Will Sloan Steven Spielberg has made at least ten movies that have become part of American folklore, and has ascended to the very highest echelon of society, so if there’s any living filmmaker whose perspective on himself and his work are of interest, it’s him. The chief insight that his cinematic self-portrait/origin myth The…
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TIFF 2022 | Subtraction (Mani Haghigi, Iran/ France) — Platform

By Adam Nayman It’s typical for the makers of thrillers to conceptualize themselves into a corner; what distinguishes veteran Iranian director Mani Haghigi’s work in Subtraction is what he does once he’s got his own back against the wall. About halfway through the film, it’s confirmed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that married, pregnant…
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TIFF 2022 | El Suplente (Diego Lerman, Argentina/Italy/Mexico/Spain/France) — Special Presentations

By Angelo Muredda Argentine filmmaker Diego Lerman makes a satisfying if derivative riff on To Sir, With Love (1967) with El Suplente, a slow-burning social-realist drama about an educator in Buenos Aires caught between teaching, administrative inertia, and activism. Juan Minujín brings a rumpled, low-key charisma to his role as Lucio, the eponymous substitute, an…
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TIFF 2022 | Free Money (Lauren DeFilippo & Sam Soko, Kenya/US) — TIFF Docs

By Sofia Majstorovic “I never asked them to come here,”proffers Jael, a young woman from the Kenyan village of Kogutu, who quite literally becomes the child left behind in Sam Soko and Laren DeFilippo’s sprawling documentary Free Money. The clerical error that bends Jael’s fate over the course of four years of filming tacitly substantiates…
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TIFF 2022 | Leonor Will Never Die (Martika Ramirez Escobar, Philippines) — Midnight Madness

By Michael Sicinski Narrative reflexivity. Some scholars argue that it began with Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, while others go back as far as Plato’s dialogues. In cinema, it’s been around pretty much from the beginning, with Edwin Porter’s 1902 short comedy Uncle Josh at the Moving Picture Show, and Buster Keaton perfecting the form a few…
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TIFF 2022 | North of Normal (Carly Stone, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Anna Swanson North of Normal wastes absolutely no time in setting up a story that, were it not based on true events, would seem almost too outlandish to conceive of. Directed by Carly Stone and adapted from Cea Sunrise Person’s memoir (the screenplay is by Alexandra Weir), the film opens with a narrative explanation…
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TIFF 2022 | Coyote (Canada, Katherine Jerkovic) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Madeline Wall After having to sell his successful restaurant, The Coyote, ten years ago, chef Camilo (Jorge Martinez Colorado) lives a quiet, solitary life in Montreal. The meals he cooks for his friends are beautiful, but rather than working in a kitchen, he spends his evenings as a janitor. He is trying to return…
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TIFF 2022 | Stellar (Darlene Naponse, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Madeleine Wall  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before—a woman walks into a bar at the end of the world. The woman, simply known as She (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) settles down into a Northern Ontario dive bar for the evening, gradually noticing the young man He (Braeden Clarke) at the jukebox. As the weather…
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TIFF 2022 | Snow and the Bear (Selcen Ergun, Germany/Turkey/Serbia) — Discovery 

By Sofia Majstorovic “This snow just won’t melt away. I wonder what shame it’s hiding under it,” says Refik, one of many men whose bear encounter structures the rumour mill at the centre of writer-director Selcen Ergun’s debut feature Snow and the Bear. Played carefully and quietly by Merve Dizdar, newcomer Aslı (or “Miss Nurse”)…
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TIFF 2022 | 752 Is Not a Number (Babak Payami, Canada) — TIFF Docs

By Angelo Muredda  “It is like bringing the dead to life,” a man says over the shattered Apple Watch he is trying to reanimate to yield a lost person’s heart-rate readings in Babak Payami’s absorbing 752 Is Not a Number, the Iranian-Canadian documentarian’s chronicle of one man’s efforts to do right by his deceased wife…
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TIFF 2022 | The End of Sex (Sean Garrity, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Will Sloan  Another modest sex comedy from the creative team behind My Awkward Sexual Adventure (2012), The End of Sex shifts its comedy-of-awkwardness to middle-age. After sending their two adolescent daughters to camp, long-married couple Josh (Jonas Chernick) and Emma (Emily Hampshire) finally have the time and space to revive their long-dormant sex life.…
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TIFF 2022 | Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (Eric Appel, US) — Midnight Madness

By Will Sloan I haven’t really kept up with Weird Al Yankovic’s music since I was a kid, but I did listen to it a lot back then, to the extent that I can’t hear “Gangster’s Paradise” or “MacArthur Park” without immediately thinking of his parodies. I know a lot of people who feel the…
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TIFF 2022 | How to Blow Up a Pipeline (Daniel Goldhaber, US) — Platform

By Will Sloan  This loose adaptation of Andreas Malm’s 2021 memoir/manifesto about the political necessity of property destruction is aimed directly at the zeitgeist. Hoping to price fossil fuel out of the market, a diverse crew of Zoomer activists from the lower rungs of the economic ladder collaborate on a plot to destroy a crucial…
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TIFF 2022 | So Much Tenderness (Lina Rodríguez, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Angelo Muredda  The past imprints itself on the present daily in So Much Tenderness, Lina Rodríguez’s third narrative feature and a companion piece to her recent documentary My Two Voices (2022), which was about the hybrid identities of Colombian-Canadian women. That diasporic experience is shared by Aurora (Noëlle Schönwald), an environmental lawyer who migrates…
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TIFF 2022 | Something You Said Last Night  (Luis De Filippis, Canada/Switzerland) — Discovery

By Sofia Majstorovic Not every Catholic parent is a transphobic mouthpiece for the Vatican itself. This is the simple but somewhat radical territory that Luis De Filippis’ debut feature Something You Said Last Night operates in. Trapped in their own sullenness, sisters Renata (Carmen Madonia) and Siena (Paige Evans) join their enthusiastic albeit financially strained…
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TIFF 2022 | Emily (Frances O’Connor, UK) — Platform

By Will Sloan  “In the village, they all call you the strange one,” says the future author of Jane Eyre to the future author of Wuthering Heights in this speculative biopic of Emily Brontë. More reclusive and less well-documented than her elder sister, Emily Brontë’s inner life has invited universes of speculation since her passing…
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TIFF 2022 | Daughter of Rage (Laura Baumeister, Nicaragua) — Discovery

By Brendan Boyle The opening passage of Daughter of Rage outlines the world of young heroine María (Ara Alejandra Medal), depicting the scavenger economy centered around a Nicaraguan landfill. Director Laura Baumeister introduces the children who pick through the waste in a surreal image that shows them rising out of the trash dunes, set to…
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TIFF 2022 | Stories Not to be Told (Cesc Gay, Spain) — Special Presentations

By Josh Lewis Spanish writer-director Cesc Gay returns to Toronto for the seventh(!) time with this unconventional anthology of awkward, overlit romantic comedy encounters that are meant to reveal the complicated histories and immature choices that we try to cover up and ultimately form the foundations of how we navigate our daily lives. Despite his…
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TIFF 2022 | Rosie (Gail Maurice, Canada) — Discovery

By Josh Lewis  Montreal, 1984. A world of hounding landlords, drag-show auditions, and desperate children in search of family according to this debut comic-drama about living on the economic and cultural fringes from Métis filmmaker Gail Maurice. Due to a few bureaucratic child service technicalities, Rosie (Keris Hope Hill), a bright and precocious Indigenous orphan,…
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TIFF 2022 | The Kingdom Exodus (Lars Von Trier, Denmark) — Primetime

By Adam Nayman Where Lars von Trier once stood in front of his goofy hospital Gothic—literally appearing onscreen in a tuxedo during each episode’s end credits to recap the action and flash his shit-eating, Danish-scum-of-the-earth grin—Exodus finds him stepping into the background. Casting himself wizard-like as the proverbial man behind the curtain (aka The Boss…
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TIFF 2022 | The Hotel (Wang Xiaoshuai, Hong Kong) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Robert Koehler TIFF may have been thrown for a loop by COVID-19, but it’s nothing compared to Wang Xiaoshuai, who has tried—along with screenwriters Ning Dai and Ye Fu—to make something from the quarantine setting in his film, The Hotel. Imagine a combination of a stripped-down Grand Hotel or California Suite with contemporary Chinese…
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TIFF 2022 | All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Laura Poitras, United States) – TIFF Docs

By Will Sloan There has been much discourse in recent years about how best to “hold accountable” those whose wealth and privilege insulates them from the traditional levers of justice. The question is key to Laura Poitras’s documentary profile of Nan Goldin, which foregrounds the legendary photographer’s fight against the Sackler family, whose pharmaceutical empire…
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TIFF 2022 | The Happiest Man in the World (Teona Strugar Mitevska, North Macedonia/Belgium/Slovenia/Denmark/Croatia/Bosnia and Herzegovina) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Robert Koehler Not all dating-match events are made equal, and the one arranged in Macedonian filmmaker Teona Strugar Mitevska’s The Happiest Man in the World is especially, you could say, toxic. The viewer is dropped in medias res in the setting, as Mitevska’s camera follows middle-aged Asja (Jelena Kordić Kuret) into a large Sarajevo…
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TIFF 2022 | Fixation (Mercedes Bryce Morgan, Canada/US/Germany) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman Reality, said that 21st-century media guru Nathan Fielder, is what you make of it, and the villainous headshrinker in the Sudbury-shot Fixation advocates what can only be called a Fielderian methodology. Entrusted with a disturbed client who can’t remember her violent crimes (or the reasons for them)—and who is facing a potentially…
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TIFF 2022 | De Humani Corporis Fabrica (Véréna Paravel & Lucien Castaing-Taylor, France/Switzerland) — Wavelengths

By Blake Williams Published in Cinema Scope #91 (Summer 2022) “The first step in cinematographic thought seems to me to be the utilisation of existing objects and forms which can be made to mean everything, because nature is profoundly, infinitely versatile.”—Antonin Artaud, “Cinema and Abstraction” It’s been ten years since Sensory Ethnography Lab cine-anthropologists Lucien…
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TIFF 2022 | Ever Deadly (Tanya Tagaq & Chelsea McMullan, Canada) — TIFF Docs

By Angelo Muredda Early in Ever Deadly, an elliptical mix of concert documentary and artist’s manifesto, celebrated Inuk throat singer and novelist Tanya Tagaq jokes to an unseen audience that if they really hate the non-traditional, contemporary riff on throat singing she’s about to perform, they can always make their way for the door, since…
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TIFF 2022 | Other People’s Children (Rebecca Zlotowski, France) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman Call her The Best Person in the World: dedicated teacher, doting daughter, supportive sister, and successfully, sexily single in the City of Lights, Rachel (Virginie Efira) lives a semi-charmed kind of life, punctuated by irised-in transitions that remind us we’re watching a breezy French festival movie. Every so often, her kindly gynecologist…
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TIFF 2022 | I Like Movies (Chandler Levack, Canada) — Discovery

By Saffron Maeve  You’ve already met Lawrence Kweller (Isaiah Lehtinen), the tenacious Kubrick-truther with zero EQ and lofty dreams of the Tisch School Of The Arts. He’s no far cry from the goading basement dwellers colloquially termed “film bros,” a brand of arrested young men who love movies to the point of exhaustion; the sort…
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TIFF 2022 | Short Cuts Canada Highlights

By Ally Oman  It’s What Each Person Needs (Sophy Romvari, Canada) Finessing what is often at play in Sophy Romvari’s work, It’s What Each Person Needs toes the line between truth and fabrication, documentary and fiction. The film depicts a series of video calls between Torontonian singer Becca Willow Moss and the two distinctive groups…
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TIFF 2022 | Valeria is Getting Married (Michal Vinik, Israel/Ukraine) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Cáit Murphy Michal Vinik’s multilingual second feature unfurls intensely and precisely as it sensitively frames the tempestuous relationships of two Ukrainian sisters seeking a better life in Israel. Valeria (Dasha Tvoronovich) is indeed getting married, but something feels off in the film’s opening shot of a woman’s silhouette in a frosted window and turbulent…
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TIFF 2022 | Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (Pierre Földes, France/Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Cáit Murphy This episodic, animated adaptation of several short stories by Murakami Haruki turns its melancholic focus on three characters living in Tokyo following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Komura (Ryan Bommarito) and Mr. Katagiri (Marcelo Arroyo) work in the lending department of a downsizing Tokyo bank. At home, Komura’s unresponsive wife Kyoko…
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TIFF 2022 | Broker (Kore-eda Hirokazu, South Korea) — Special Presentations

By Michael Sicinski First things first: Broker, Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Korean sojourn, is considerably more competent than The Truth (2019), his ill-considered foray into superstar French cinema. But this is faint praise indeed. Broker finds the Japanese master transplanting his standard template with little in the way of cultural specificity or variation. His recent popularity has…
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TIFF 2022 | Fata Morgana (Tacita Dean, US/Germany) — Wavelengths 

By Antoine Thirion Published in Cinema Scope #92 (Fall 2022) In The Green Ray (2001), British artist Tacita Dean famously managed to capture on 16mm film the fleeting light that the sun leaves behind right at the moment when it disappears from the horizon. And, because a digital camera used by others at the same…
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TIFF 2022 | Horse Opera (Moyra Davey, US) — Wavelengths

By Michael Sicinski An exceptionally bold programming choice by TIFF’s Wavelengths team, Moyra Davey’s feature expands on many of the conceptual tropes that have guided her photographs and video works for the past decade. In some regards a direct extension of her 2017 work Wedding Loop, Horse Opera finds the artist moving in front of…
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TIFF 2022 | Concrete Valley (Antoine Bourges, Canada) — Wavelengths

By Madeleine Wall Despite having arrived in Canada five years ago from Syria, Rashid (Hussam Douhna) and his wife Fahra (Amani Ibrahim) have not entirely settled in. Whatever promises a country founded in Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water gave them, they wake up without working hot water. Thorncliffe Park, their home, is a…
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TIFF 2022 | Living (Oliver Hermanus, UK) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Robert Koehler Published in Cinema Scope #90 (Spring 2022) Living, Ishiguro Kazuo’s adaptation of Kurosawa Akira, Hashimoto Shinobu, and Oguni Hideo’s screenplay for Ikiru (1952), is the author’s finest script in English in several years. This isn’t to slight the contribution of director Oliver Hermanus (making his first UK-set feature after a string of…
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TIFF 2022 | Domingo and the Mist (Ariel Escalante Meza, Costa Rica/Qatar) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski Ariel Escalante’s film resembles a well-worn vein in global art cinema: the elderly man being crushed under the weight of inexorable forces, most often those of economic neoliberalism. We see these films a lot because, frankly, this is the dominant story of our times. But obviously there are a number of different…
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TIFF 2022 | Queens of the Qing Dynasty (Ashley McKenzie, Canada) — Wavelengths 

By Adam Nayman  Published in Cinema Scope #90 (Spring 2022) Intense duets are at the centre of Ashley McKenzie’s cinema. Her 2016 debut Werewolf portrayed a pair of emotionally conjoined drug users, juxtaposing devotion and addiction as two sides of the same coin. In her follow-up, Queens of the King Dynasty, which recently premiered in…
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TIFF 2022 | Holy Spider (Ali Abbasi, Denmark/Germany/Sweden/France) — Special Presentations

By Jordan Cronk One of the year’s most reprehensible films, Ali Abbasi’s follow-up to the dumb but diverting troll romance Border (2018) finds the Iranian director switching genre registers from the fantastic to the fatalistic with an astoundingly cynical reimagining of the life and crimes of Saeed Hanaei, a real-life Shia Muslim who believed that…
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TIFF 2022 | The Origin of Evil (Sébastien Marnier, France/Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Clara Miranda Scherffig In one of the first sequences of The Origin of Evil, rows of anchovies are shown being packaged in plastic on an assembly line. Later on, the image of dead fish crammed in an oily box will cease to embody the family intrigue at the centre of the plot and become,…
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TIFF 2022 | Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Östlund, Sweden/France/UK/Germany/Turkey) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Caitlin Quinlan Published in Cinema Scope #91 (Summer 2022) The aphorism “eat the rich,” long attributed to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, has found a contemporary home in popular media. Whether TikTok teens making snappy, meme-laden upper-class critiques in under a minute (now competing for Cannes awards themselves) or established filmmakers navigating narratives of wealth and privilege…
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TIFF 2022 | La Jauría (Andrés Ramirez Pulido, Colombia/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski In film and especially on TV, this is a golden moment for wayward youths struggling to survive away from civilization. The Lord of the Flies template offers producers the opportunity to showcase new talent, and provides an excuse for the camera to linger over sweaty young flesh. But unlike, say, Yellowjackets, which…
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TIFF 2022 | My Imaginary Country (Patricio Guzmán, Chile) — TIFF Docs

By Michael Sicinski Those discovering Patricio Guzmán’s latest documentary at TIFF are in for a much more bittersweet experience than those who caught its world premiere in Cannes. That’s because the film concludes with a rather spectacular bit of hope. Guzmán shows how the mass protests that began on October 18, 2019 resulted in a…
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TIFF 2022 | The Maiden (Graham Foy, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Saffron Maeve  Two character studies compounded by a misplaced notebook, Graham Foy’s sparkling debut The Maiden follows two best friends, Colton (Marcel T. Jiménez) and Kyle (Jackson Sluiter), through the backwoods of their Alberta suburb. The pair skateboard, tag underpasses, loiter around construction sites, and pick flowers for a cat’s burial at sea, until…
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TIFF 2022 | The Whale (Darren Aronofsky, US) — Special Presentations

By Clara Miranda Scherffig More than just a key to a healthy life, eating can be a ritual of joy. The lack of food is generally associated with violence, and its excess is often regarded as obscene. This is, in part, the premise of The Whale, another installment in Darren Aronofsky’s career-long study about the…
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TIFF 2022 | To Kill a Tiger (Nisha Pahuja, Canada)—TIFF Docs

By Brendan Boyle Following the case of a 13-year-old girl who was raped by three men in Jharkand, India, To Kill a Tiger upsets all manner of clichés about narratives of sexual assault and criminal justice. Director Nisha Pahuja takes her camera into some unfriendly settings, and the villagers and local authorities direct a startling…
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TIFF 2022 | One Fine Morning (Mia Hansen-Løve, France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Jordan Cronk Following last year’s conceptually slippery Bergman Island, Mia Hansen-Løve is back on terra firma with One Fine Morning, a bittersweet tale about the precariousness of life and love set in modern-day Paris. Starring Léa Seydoux as Sandra, a widowed single mother and freelance translator whose elderly father, Georg (Pascal Greggory), is sick…
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TIFF 2022 | Falcon Lake (Charlotte Le Bon, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski Falcon Lake, the feature debut from actress Charlotte Le Bon, is an above-average mood piece that represents a reconceptualization of the adolescent coming-of-age story. In this regard it certainly feels familiar: in broad outline, it’s quite similar to a classic of the genre, but to say which one would be a spoiler.…
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TIFF 2022 | Under the Fig Trees (Erige Sehiri, Tunisia/France/Switzerland/Germany/Qatar) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski The feature debut of documentarian Erige Sehiri (Railway Men) is a perfectly agreeable film: it has screened at a number of festivals since premiering in the Quinzaine, and will probably end up playing to many appreciative audiences in the future, even as it remains rather schematic in its organization. Set during a…
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TIFF 2022 | Unrest (Cyril Schäublin, Switzerland) — Wavelengths 

By Jay Kuehner Published in Cinema Scope #92 (Fall 2022) “Not only should man know what he is making, but if possible he should see how it is used—see how nature is changed by him. Every man’s work should be an object of contemplation for him.”—Simone Weil, La condition ouvrière Anarchic in spirit but formally…
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TIFF 2022 | R.M.N. (Cristian Mungiu, Romania/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Lawrence Garcia Cristian Mungiu’s latest state-of-the-nation address, R.M.N., takes its title from the Romanian acronym for nuclear magnetic resonance—a phenomenon familiar from its use in various forms of medical imaging, such as brain scans. And the director’s diagnosis, as it were, is clear enough. Centred on a Transylvanian town whose inhabitants push back with…
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TIFF 2022 | Mariupolis 2 (Mantas Kvedaravičius, Lithuania/France/Germany) — TIFF Docs

By Winnie Wang In his follow-up to Mariupolis (2016), the late Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius returns to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol to document the devastating effects of the 2022 Russian invasion as it unfolds. Composed entirely of verité footage, Mariupolis 2 follows a group of displaced citizens who struggle for survival in abandoned houses…
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TIFF 2022 | Aftersun (Charlotte Wells, UK/US) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Jason Anderson Published in Cinema Scope #92 (Fall 2022) The image of Paul Mescal lost and losing himself in a crowded, strobe-lit dancefloor is the most haunting leitmotif in Charlotte Wells’ debut feature Aftersun, a film that would be acutely musical in feel and structure even if it weren’t powered by such a carefully…
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TIFF 2022 | Will-o’-the-Wisp (João Pedro Rodrigues, Portugal/France) — Wavelengths 

By James Lattimer Published in Cinema Scope #91 (Summer 2022) João Pedro Rodrigues has always made shifting between disparate registers and genres appear like the most natural thing in the world, and his self-declared musical fantasy Will-o’-the-Wisp is another case in point. If the sort of musical numbers and transgressive flights of fancy already familiar…
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TIFF 2022 | Dry Ground Burning (Joana Pimenta & Adirley Queirós, Portugal/Brazil) — Wavelengths 

By James Lattimer Published in Cinema Scope #92 (Fall 2022) The periphery is always the centre in the films of Adirley Queirós, whether in terms of the people and places at the focus of his attention or the off-centre stylistic means he employs to explore their tribulations, and, by extension, those of Brazil. With this…
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TIFF 2022 | Luxembourg, Luxembourg (Antonio Lukich, Ukraine) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Josh Lewis “With love to his secrets [and] lies” are among the last words that appear on screen in the bittersweet sophomore effort from Ukrainian writer-director Antonio Lukich. They are in reference to Lukich’s father, a low-level gangster who he has fictionalized through the childhood eyes of twin brothers Kolya (Ramil Nasirov) and Vasya…
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TIFF 2022 | Stonewalling (Huang Ji & Ryuji Otsuka, Japan) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Winnie Wang Lynn (​​Yao Honggui), a young flight attendant in training, shuttles tirelessly between odd jobs modelling at a jewelry store, assisting her boyfriend with a clothing business, and selling medical masks. Her mother runs a fertility clinic, but prefers to climb the ranks of a multi-level marketing scheme for a skincare company that…
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TIFF 2022 | Corsage (Marie Kreutzer, Austria/Luxembourg/Germany/France) — Special Presentations

By Lawrence Garcia If Albert Serra’s La mort de Louis XIV (2016) may be taken as dramatizing Ernst Kantorowicz’s theory of the king’s two bodies—the concept that a king may be understood as having both a body natural and a body politic—Marie Kreutzer’s Corsage, starring Vicky Krieps as Empress Elisabeth of Austria (a.k.a. “Sisi”), may…
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TIFF 2022 | Hunt (Lee Jung-jae, South Korea) — Galas 

By Michael Sicinski If I may be permitted a rather clichéd observation, a good procedural is like a game of chess. Complex machinations are involved, and many strategies require foresight, the ability to think several moves ahead. Hunt, the directorial debut of Squid Game star Lee Jung-jae, takes a very different approach: what if you…
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TIFF 2022 | El agua (Elena López Riera, Spain/France/Switzerland) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Cáit Murphy Taking place in a dormant village in Valencian orange-growing country, this vivid coming-of-age feature plays with documentary elements while ultimately eliding the magic of its folkloric premise. Seventeen-year-old Ana (Luna Pamiés) is the daughter of single mother and bar owner Isabella (Bárbara Lennie); Ana’s boyfriend José (Alberto Olmo), a pigeon-racing hobbyist, is…
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TIFF 2022 | Nanny (Nikyatu Jusu, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman A horror movie so elevated it rises above any pressing need to be scary, Nikayatu Jusu’s Nanny concerns a Senegalse woman, Aisha (Anna Diop), who takes a well-paid gig as a semi-live-in caregiver for a wealthy New York couple. Her employers are, obviously, less perfect than they seem: the  family’s SUV-sized refrigerator,…
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TIFF 2022 | EO (Jerzy Skolimowski, Poland/Italy) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Jordan Cronk Published in Cinema Scope #91 (Summer 2022) When Jerzy Skolimowski cancelled his press commitments at Cannes to promote his new feature, EO, he denied critics and cinephiles an explanation behind the festival’s most mystifying entry. All but engineered to prompt bemusement, the film, a bold, modern-day reimagining of Bresson’s Au hasard Balthazar (1966), is…
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TIFF 2022 | Pacifiction (Albert Serra, France/Spain/Germany/Portugal) — Wavelengths

By Mark Peranson Published in Cinema Scope #91 (Summer 2022) The prototypical wild-card Cannes Competition selection—albeit one with a French star, almost entirely in French (with a smattering of Portuguese and English), and kind of “about” French colonialism and politics, in a satisfyingly murky kind of way—Pacifiction landed as a life-saving UFO to reveal much…
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TIFF 2022 | Decision to Leave (Park Chan-wook, South Korea) — Special Presentations 

By Robert Koehler The wildly enthusiastic reception by critics in Cannes to Park Chan-wook’s romantic detective movie Decision to Leave was almost asking for a backlash. Whether or not that happens in Toronto, this much can be said: Park has pulled back notably from his previously mega-twisty, coiled narratives and stylings for something that’s faintly…
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Hygiène sexuelle: Dénis Côté’s “Un été comme ça”

By Katherine Connell Cinema about sex is often enriched by summer settings: escalating heat can place bodies into increasingly erotic orbits as the seeming eternity of canicular days are pit against seasonal ephemerality. While fleeting yet formative attachments are the nucleus of countless films that centre sexual self-discovery, considerably underexplored are the unenticing experiences of…
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Rituals and Reciprocity: Albert Shin’s Together

By Winnie Wang In Hong Sangsoo’s Tale of Cinema (2005) a depressed young man reunites with a female former classmate through a chance encounter and joins her after a night of emotional conversations and heavy drinking in an impulsive suicide pact. In a hotel room, the two take turns swallowing sleeping pills collected from pharmacies…
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A Bridge Too Far: James Vaughan’s Friends and Strangers

By Chloe Lizotte It’s not immediately clear who the protagonist of James Vaughan’s debut feature is. Following the credits, which play over a montage of 18th-century artist William Bradley’s watercolours of English ships docking in Sydney (the settlement’s first representation in Western art), we are shown a sunny park on the edge of Sydney’s harbour,…
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Breathing Chasms: Rita Ferrando’s Ikebana

By Saffron Maeve “Soil does not come to life of its own accord.” So says Rita Ferrando in Ikebana (2021), a poetic documentary short about ecological temporality and the Japanese art of floral arrangement, which screened at IFFR earlier this year. The sediment is instead churned into existence by decomposing trees and heaps of fallen…
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TIFF 2021 | The Other Tom (Rodrigo Plá, Laura Santullo, Mexico/USA)

By Angelo Muredda Single mom Elena (Julia Chavez) tries to do right by her scampish ten-year-old son Tom (Israel Rodríguez Bertorelli) despite the interventions of the byzantine Texas school system in Rodrigo Plá and Laura Santullo’s minor-key drama The Other Tom, based on Santullo’s novel. The filmmakers do well to balance their kitchen-sink realism and…
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TIFF 2021 | One Second (Zhang Yimou, China)

By Shelly Kraicer Published in Cinema Scope #87 (Summer 2021) Zhang Yimou has released 22 features to date, in addition to a couple of shorts, two more features shot and ready to go (censors permitting), his grandiose made-for-TV pageants for the Beijing Olympics, opera stagings like Turandot at the Forbidden City, and, if we’re being…
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TIFF 2021 | Murina (Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović, Croatia)

By Madeleine Wall Winner of this year’s Caméra d’Or at Cannes, Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s Murina is a competent but slight combo of thriller and coming-of-age film basking in the sun of the Adriatic sea. Armed with a speargun and clad in a white bathing suit, 16-year-old Julija (Gracija Filipovic) cuts a striking figure in the…
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